I enjoy navigating crowds for the same reason I enjoy rolling rogues in RPGs: duck and weave; you’re there and then you’re gone. For that half-second you see an opening between people and you make the physics work: you’re though the bottleneck, out into an open stretch, reading the seething mass ahead of you and picking the precise point at which you will hurtle into the fray.
That is deeply satisfying for me. There are few moments, as an average-sized adult at a desk job, when one gets to feel sleek, crafty and physically powerful. Darting through milling crowds like a fox through slow, plodding hounds is one such time, though. Even as a kid, slipping ghost-like through slow-moving masses at big train shows like Greenberg’s and York to run messages between my parents on their quests for various items, I got a thrill from the successful navigation of a crowd. It’s like Tetris, but with bodies. I always win.
A lot of runners, though, do not share that feeling. Whether it’s linked to their running or part of a broader character trait, they need personal space on the road or trail. So at this, my last race of the season, there were indeed a lot of very, very unhappy runners.
We pounded through densely-packed pathways lined with uneven ditches and rocks on either side, making far-left or far-right passing next to impossible. Mudslicks cropped up every few miles or so, threatening to send runners into messy cartwheels that would no doubt have taken at least three or four of their fellows with them–it was that tightly packed. People heaved and wobbled and hissed with frustration as they sought that golden, ephemeral moment to break free of the pack and surge ahead, often clotted behind droves of walkers, couples and social clusters refusing to budge or make way for their faster peers.
It was awesome.
So farewell, race season: may we meet again. Preferably with a metric fuckton of other people, too. People I’ll bob and weave between like Basil Stag Hare himself.